Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vancouver Trumps Haiti

Can someone please buy the Nightly News producers an atlas? Twice in the first two minutes of Saturday's broadcast, a graphic showing the path of tropical storm Bonnie misspelled the island of Hispaniola as "Hispanola". Of course, the irony here is unmistakable. Hispaniola is comprised of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Back in January, Brian Williams and his producers spent about a month pretending that they cared about the earthquake that devastated Haiti. Until the Vancouver Olympics began, that is. Once the Olympics started, Haiti virtually disappeared from Nightly News. Apparently, the death of one Georgian luger was far more important than the estimated quarter of a million people who died in the Haiti earthquake. And spelling Hispaniola correctly is obviously of no importance to the Nightly News producers. Haven't the Haitian people suffered enough without this added indignity?

Of course, ignoring Haiti in favor of Vancouver made perfect sense to Brian and his producers. One reason Nightly News exists is to promote other NBC properties, and there is no NBC property more important and more valuable (and more expensive) than the Olympics. Even before the Olympics began, NBC knew they were going to lose money (the final loss total for NBC was $223 million. Funny thing--I never heard Brian report that on Nightly News.). That's why Nightly News devoted 160 minutes of February news time to Olympic-related stories. That's the equivalent of more than seven entire Nightly News broadcasts (a broadcast runs 22 minutes without commercials). By turning Nightly News into a promotional vehicle for the Olympics, NBC hoped they could increase Olympic viewership and offset some of their expected losses. The importance of the Haitian earthquake paled in comparison to NBC's desire to promote the Olympics.

There was another consideration in Brian's decision to ignore Haiti once the Olympics began: Because they represent a smaller percentage of the U.S. population, African Americans (as both news subject and viewer demographic) are less important to Brian than are whites. (African Americans comprise only about 13% of the U.S. population, while non-Hispanic whites account for about 66% of the U.S. population.) The people affected by the Haitian earthquake were overwhelmingly black and poor. The viewers watching the Olympics were largely white and affluent. Brian's primary goal for Nightly News, of course, is to attract the most viewers so his broadcast can have the highest ratings (and charge the highest ad rates). So for Brian and his producers, it simply makes economic sense to devote his broadcast to stories that appeal to the larger white population, rather than to stories that appeal to the smaller African American population. If the majority of the country was populated by purple people with green polka dots, Brian would contrive Nightly News to appeal to that demographic. Of course Brian would like African American viewers to watch his broadcast, but it just makes more sense to devote his show's limited resources towards attracting the larger racial demographic of whites. If one particular animal is five times more abundant than another animal, it makes sense to hunt the abundant animal, if both will sustain you equally. Vancouver trumps Haiti. For Brian, it's all about the ratings, all the time.

No comments:

Post a Comment